Inclusive face masks pave way to a more inclusive world

Marietta, an Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Motivator of Edmund Rice, while she makes a face mask.

CBM Australia Case Study

Partner Organisation: CBM Philippines Country Office

When COVID-19 first reached the Philippines, widespread lockdowns and mandatory mask-wearing were introduced across the country to slow the spread of the virus. For deaf people, this meant that they were cut off from communicating via lip reading, as traditional masks hide people’s faces.

Michi, from CBM’s Country Office in the Philippines, explains that “the situation for people with disabilities is difficult. That’s why we have joined forces with local partners and organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) to ensure response efforts are inclusive and protect the safety of all people.”

One initiative that has come out of the collaboration is an inclusive mask. The team designed a mask featuring a clear plastic panel to allow for lip reading and it has since been manufactured by OPDs. The mask was successfully trialled in the community with many welcoming the initiative. The success of the masks has meant they are now being produced at scale and rolled out to even more communities.

“The inclusive face mask has helped me and the Deaf community to communicate with people and understand them through lip reading. Thank you for making us feel that we are one.” said Floyd, a member of the Deaf community and vice president of the Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (IDRR) Motivators.

Michi continues, “We’ve also been able to have influence with the local government’s disaster preparedness committee who have tweaked their wider community response to include people with disabilities.”

“The Local Government appreciates the initiative so much they are giving us a space in the market to display the face masks. There is growing support for inclusive face masks from nearby provinces and private institutions. We have even received orders from a medical school.” said Mae, a project manager of Edmund Rice Ministries.

Alongside the inclusive mask initiative, the team have been distributing food and hygiene packs to several communities in need. The packs were specifically designed with people with disabilities in mind and include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), disinfectant, emergency food supplies and materials that raise awareness about how to protect yourself from COVID-19.

“If we want to create a world which is inclusive, we must design our products for disability.” said Michi. A crisis can also be an opportunity, and in the case of COVID-19 we can reimagine the world as it could be where all people, especially people with disabilities, are valued and respected.